The other day I went to a patisserie in Brisbane in search for chocolate croissants. First a lovely girl apologised profusely that they didn’t have any, but did offer almond croissants instead. No, we didn’t want almond, it had to be a chocolate croissant. Just as we were heading out the door, a colleague proactively suggested: “Well, I can bake one of our award winning brownies into the plain croissant and make you a chocolate croissant this way? Will that suit?”
Ok, sure! And he made a sale. We even bought an almond croissant on top of it. Proactive and lateral thinking. I liked it and made a mental note to tell my team.
So, the next time we received one of these enquiries: “We would like a 30,000 word technical text translated from Brazilian Portuguese into English within 48 hours,” we didn’t respond with the polite: “This is not possible unfortunately” (let alone quoting from one of my favourite Australian movies The Castle: “You’re dreaming!”) – but suggested rather what we could deliver: “We can get you an ‘information only’ translation within 3 days. You can then identify the segments that you require translated from scratch.”
Fine. Client was happy and commissioned additionally a standard Japanese translation for a different matter while they were at it. They saw what the Brazilian report was about and only a section of it was relevant to them. Client was also able to prepare their response in time, and my team saved the sale. And with the Japanese translation on top of it they basically sold the almond croissant.
So, it’s all about providing options. This concerns all of us in business: we have to stop judging and offer creative solutions to ensure our clients receive what they require despite low budgets, tight deadlines and complex project specifications.
With the explosion of authored and user-generated content and subsequent sharp increase in translation and localisation requirements, we have to be more flexible and creative than ever to be a true language partner to our clients. As I do get asked regularly about low budget options and shortcuts and the myths behind them, I thought I’d give you some scenarios including their benefits and pitfalls.
Horses for courses is the gold standard here, and it’s our job to advise what process is appropriate for which purpose.
No budget – but you need to know what it says – for information only
A common scenario for board documents that need to be translated merely “for information only” if some board members are not English native speakers but want to get a gist in their own language. “Gist” is the keyword here, and Machine Translation (MT) our friend. I always say: “Quality is what the client defines as quality.” Not every translation has to be an award-winning linguistic master piece. Depending on the purpose, a raw machine translation output, lightly post-edited (cleaned up by technical translators, so-called post-editors), will suffice, just as you might be happy to board an EasyJet plane versus Air France for a short haul, no-luggage flight. See our previous blog on MT – Road to Hell or Heaven Sent for details on dangers and suitability of MT, what post-editors do, what kind of texts are suitable for MT, when you should never consider MT, what a smart engine is and what’s wrong with Google Translation in the first place for this purpose.
Crazy deadline – 50,000 words but you have no time
This is where a server based Translation Environment Tool (TES) combined with Machine Translation (MT) comes in. As explained above we can run it through a hand-picked, industry and language specific MT engine, hosted on a private server and fed with quality data. This will be post-edited by technical translators who carefully go through the text adjusting where required. The project can be shared by several linguists working together on the server TES in real time updating the TM (Translation Memory) as they are editing to ensure terminology consistency across the team of translators. Not necessarily a cheap option as you are paying for the MT engine, language engineers optimising the content, technical translators editing the MT output and editors to proofread the final. But you get high quality in record time.
Audio translations – for oral languages or web productions when either time or budget is limited
Audio recordings require professional studio bookings, script preparation, scheduling of voice talents, editing of files and final QA, all of which takes time and is costly. Depending on the purpose and urgency, an option might be voice talents who are recording on their own devices and the audio files are optimised post production in the studio. This allows for a faster turnaround time, avoids minimum call out fees and reduces production costs considerably. Again, horses for courses. Not suitable for marketing or professional publication quality purposes nor for creative industries, but a realistic option for information-only, functional circumstances or scenarios where oral recordings are crucial and lifesaving.
You require a lower budget option for Simultaneous Interpreting
Whilst we can’t compromise on simultaneous conference interpreter quality, costs on equipment can be significantly reduced for certain scenarios if you are well aware of the shortcomings. Now conference delegates can use their own smartphones to connect to the simultaneous interpreting system through an app. Their phone becomes the receiver, and the app streams audio via WiFi straight out of the interpreters’ booths.
Event organisers see clear advantages as there is no need to rent receivers and headphones anymore, nor distribute them, collect them or replace lost or stolen ones. The more costly infrared digital infrastructure is not needed, and overall costs are thus reduced. Another upside are streaming services to the Net. These allow for people to view/listen to an almost live webcast of an event and the interpretation (5-10 second delay only), or to a recording later. For all details on what BYOD is, what the challenges are, what Machine Interpreting is and Booth Borrowing, read our piece On BYO and Survival of the Fittest.
Tyranny of Distance – no time and no budget to fly in interpreters
Remote Interpreting includes all forms of interpreting where the interpreters are not physically in the same place as the delegates. With the Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) method, interpreters are working through a videoconferencing solution. In Australia, this is often used for short interpreting assignments in hospitals, Courts, or businesses in regional Australia where accredited interpreters may not be available. VRI equipment suppliers make it easy as you can merely download the software to your computer and access it on your phone. The efficiencies in travel costs, time and logistics are significant. Disadvantages are possible audio and video feed disruption, delay and other quality issues. Another problem is that interpreters cannot always view body language and visual cues, so VRI is not suitable for events of high interactivity. An onsite technician is recommended but often not provided, leaving interpreters with the added stress of having to take care of technology instead of concentrating on interpreting.
Subtitling – cost-efficiency through closed captions shared online
You may have already come across the terms of “closed” and “open” captions in subtitling. “Closed” indicates that the subtitles are not visible until activated by the viewer (mostly via a menu option or the remote); whereas “open” captions are permanently burned into the video and visible to everyone. With video sharing platforms like YouTube and Vimeo featuring closed caption functionality, clients have the option to share their subtitled videos via these platforms, giving the viewer the choice whether to see the captions or not, and in which language. Access to the videos can be limited as well through password protection. It’s a user-friendly way to share, that saves not only the cost of burning in the subtitles but can also mean less data having to be transferred.
So, who would have thought I’d be advising on shortcuts and low cost options. Importantly, this is not about cutting corners, but about contributing to the customer experience, adding value and giving solutions to real life requirements, no matter how unrealistic they might seem at first. It’s about time we all start listening to our customers rather than thinking about what we are offering and where our limitations are.
The young chap at the Brisbane bakery achieved a few things that morning. He not only got a new ambassador for the shop and subsequently made much more than one sale, but he made his customer happy. Start of a good Sunday.
Written by Tea C. Dietterich, CEO, 2M Language Services